While the world of pottery heralds great artists for their skills of symmetry, precision and perfection, Hagi ware represents a different side of the Japanese aesthetic.
Hagi ware can possess a very humble quality that suggests cottage industry or works that are on the level of crafts, not art. But don’t be fooled – Hagi ware is highly collected and esteemed for what it possesses – the quality of simplicity and earnestness. Hagi ware is an essential type of Japanese pottery with it’s own special appeal. Hagi is a Japanese pottery making town located in Yamaguchi Prefecture on the Japan sea. Hagi ware has been in production for over 400 years and much of it’s history is closely associated with producing teawares for use in Chanoyu – the Japanese tea ceremony. For potter collectors, Hagi ware tea bowls are second only to Raku tea bowls for use in Chanoyu.
Hagi potters have embraced a unique pottery style that features rough textured clays, asymmetrical forms and shapes, and juxtaposing glaze textures and colors. Among the various types of pottery teawares made in Japan, the distinguishing texture of Hagi ware is due to a type of local clay called kuchi-tsuchi.
The clay contains fine grains of sand and very small pebbles which gives the pottery a slightly porous nature. Sometimes a piece of Hagi will leak a little bit – this is because the clay is so coarse. But by soaking the piece in water (and from use) the clay will expand and the leak will stop. Some Hagi pieces are not fully glazed, which allows the clay to show thru on the body of the piece. Some glazes are thickly applied which separate during firing in the kiln. This results in pieces that resemble the the patterning of some tree bark.
Hagi potters (and collectors of Hagi worldwide) treasure the role that the kiln plays in adjusting glaze colors and clay textures during firing. During use the clay in Hagi ware absorbs the tea liquor and the fine web of glaze cracks will fill in with color from the tea. With repeated use over time, the glaze colors will change hue, an effect that is highly appreciated by devotees of Hagi ware.